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Plenty ''Monk''ing Around

Once again monks visit the beautiful campus in Berea. On Friday, October 31, monks from the Drepung Gomang Monastery visited. They arrived late that morning, losing their way on the course to Draper, finally meeting with us at Union Church. They were dressed in the deep reds of monk hood, with the only variations in color being the bright yellow markers of the Geshe, or a higher degree of monks.

They listen intensively as students such as Kaleigh McCoy, gave the tour of the college, discussing the great history of Berea. They were even most mystified by the Foucault pendulum in the Science Building, amazed by its ability to keep almost the same time as the rotation of the earth.

As the tour continued, we were struck by the sight of "humans" and "zombies" making a mad dash across the quad. This caught the monks’ attention and led to a series of rather difficult questions such as "What are zombies?" and "How can you tell they are zombies?" I explained to them to the best of my ability how this game worked and what zombies actually are, and how a person would know if another was a zombie. I told them simply look for the red on their arm, displaying my white bandanna, to which a monk responded through the translator, "Would they think monks are zombies?" gesturing to his deep red robe.

After the tour was concluded we traveled to dining services, and had lunch with the monks. As we sat and ate, the translator (Ngawang Gyatso) and many of the Tibetan students translated for those of us not well versed in the Tibetan language. We spoke of many things, from life in the monastery to what they thought of Berea College. Lunch time moved on to tea time and the monks found themselves upstairs in Alumni, sipping tea and answering any questions they could as student and community members came to converse about gender and Buddhism, and whether or not you can be reincarnated as a female if you are a male. Many of the monks found breaks in time between answering inquiries and wondered about the campus enjoying the view of the mountains.

Once again difficult questions arose as we tried to explain what in the world Halloween is. They knew of the holiday but did not know much about the history or why candy was passed out. Why all these questions about Halloween? Students dressed in costume for the occasion had come by and handed out candy to the monks, many whom the students thought were dressed for the occasion as well as they have not before seen monks.

That evening the monks prepared for their main event. They came into Baird lounge dressed ready for chanting with their yellow sashes and instruments. Between chanting, Gyatso spoke of the hardships of the Tibetan people, about growing up religious, and what the chants were for. The chanting itself was almost hauntingly beautiful with the rhythm of the instruments and the deep flow of their voices.

They left that same night after sharing a meal of some traditional foods from different nationalities and sharing stories such as that of their first Halloween where children ran from them as they answered the door. They were gracious as they bestowed gifts of prayer scarves before departing and taking pictures with everyone.

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